The Hibiscus Plant

The Hibiscus Plant

The hibiscus plant is a hardy perennial that often goes by the name of rose mallow or sometimes swamp rose. It’s a great investment for those who wish to add a subtle hint of tropical beauty to their garden. This particular species of plant can withstand cold winter temperatures that kill off an abundance of other tropical plant varieties. It’s, therefore, a great option for green-fingered connoisseurs who wish to add a splash of colour to an otherwise bland winter garden.

Hibiscus species

The perennial hibiscus variant boasts large, disc-shaped, hollyhock-like blooms that grow between six and 12 inches in width. The perennial hibiscus species are often found in gardens as the result of hybridizing native hibiscus species, including the likes of H. coccineus and Hibiscus moscheutos.

The bigger, more shrub-like hardy hibiscus species, H. syriacus (also known as the Rose of Sharon), has similar planting and care requirements to the smaller species available. This shrub yields an array of smaller blooms and grows into a much bigger plant that doesn’t perish in the winter months.

Planting hibiscus

Hibiscus plants can be bought from nurseries or started from seed. If sowing from seeds, these can be sown indoors. This process should be completed 12 weeks prior to the previous spring frost. For best results, it’s important to check your region’s frost dates and soak seeds in warm water for a total of one hour before sowing. If you’d prefer to sow seeds outside, you should do this after the last expected frost date and place in a sheltered area away from strong winds. This will help to avoid stem breakage. You should also plant the seeds a distance of two to three feet apart. If planting mature plants, these should be divided in the spring.

Hibiscus

Plant care

To retain moisture, mulch around the plant. This process will also provide protection for the roots. The next step requires you to water the plants well.

Pruning

Removing dead flowers before they form seed heads will encourage re-bloom. After one bloom series has finished, prune plants back by one third. Use a quality, balanced fertilizer after removing dead stems from mature plants in early spring to assist growth.

Pests and diseases

As with many plants, hibiscus suffers from ailments in the shape of pests and diseases. Some of these include:

  • Japanese beetles
  • Aphids
  • Whiteflies

If you notice signs of disease or pests attacking the plant, it’s important to treat these ailments immediately. Pesticides can help to tackle the issue, although you should check the packaging to ensure they will not harm your plants or any wildlife that might be in the garden.

Recommended varieties of hibiscus

There are a number of varieties of hibiscus to choose from, including a number of wonderfully hardy hybrids, some of which we’ve listed below:

  • Scarlet Swamp Hibiscus (H. coccineus): This species, also known as Texas Star, boasts blooms with five petals and vibrant flowers in a red hue.
  • Lord Baltimore: This is another popular variant that boats equally vibrant red flowers.
  • Sweet Caroline: This is a more feminine bloom, brandishing pink flowers with dark centers.
  • Blue River II: Beautiful white flowers feature on this hybrid, making it a contemporary and sophisticated option.
  • Kopper King: This version has huge pink blossoms with red centers. It’s named after its dramatic copper-hued foliage.

Wit and wisdom

The hibiscus plant has been used to treat many ailments, including headaches, aching limbs, coughs, and inflammations.  In Victorian times, giving a hibiscus blossom to a certain individual meant that the giver was using this gesture to recognize the receiver’s gentle beauty. 

Many people drink Hibiscus tea to soothe these ailments. This tea is made from parts of a different breed of the hibiscus plant, Hibiscus sabdariffa—which is also known as Florida Cranberry or Roselle. It is native to West Africa but is now grown across Florida, the Caribbean and Central America.

Does Hibiscus need a lot of suns?

Despite often thriving in entirely sunny locations, hibiscus plants do not require as much direct sunlight as you would think. Research suggests around two hours per day of direct sunlight is enough to encourage healthy blooming. This can be achieved both outdoors and indoors through a window.

Hibiscus

How do you take care of a Hibiscus Plant?

If growing potted hibiscus plants, you should do so in loamy, lightweight soil. Be sure to use a vessel or planter that drains well and keep the soil moist but never soggy. For best results, use warm water when watering hibiscus plants. Place them in a spot where they will receive several hours of direct sunlight per day and fertilize them on a weekly basis during their growth period.

How do I care for my hibiscus in the winter?

For best results, keep tropical hibiscus in a dark, cool location where the temperature is around 10°C. A basement or unheated garage is an ideal location. Both sunlight and warmth may make the hibiscus plant reach dormancy too early. Tropical hibiscus, however, does not go wholly dormant so the plants will necessitate a light watering throughout the winter months.

What is the lowest temperature a Hibiscus can tolerate?

The rose mallow-Texas star cross, one of the hardiest hibiscus plants, is able to withstand temperatures as low as -30°C. Hardy hibiscus relies on dormancy to shield them, while quality rich soil protects their tender roots and crowns from the freezing winds.

Can a Hibiscus be planted in the ground?

Hibiscus thrive best in the ground, however, they cannot withstand extremely cold weather, so if you reside in a place that freezes during the winter months, you may want to keep your hibiscus potted.

Can Hibiscus survive indoors?

Hibiscus enjoys conditions that appeal to most people, i.e. warm tropical environments. These tropical plants are therefore easy to grow indoors. Growing hibiscus in pots isn’t difficult at all, providing you stick to the recommended care instructions. Potted hibiscus can grow to very old age – in fact, growing to forty years or more isn’t that rare.

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